Saturday, December 8, 2018

ST15R3 Reviews - Dave Leigh

This round you'll note we've got a special Guest Judge... Travis Langworthy, who started SpinTunes and kept it running for years. Glad to have him here to opine this round, and you can read his reviews about five minutes after this post goes up.

I'm going to do this a little differently this time (mostly because I don't want to keep re-arranging reviews, but partly because I want to stress that my rankings don't matter except for tie-breakers)... I'm posting these in album order, and you'll see my rankings in the grid when the winner is posted.

OK, in this round I'm looking for you to mimic another band's style as closely as possible. IDEALLY, I should close my eyes and hear that target band, or at least a pretty good cover band. Most people have the voices they have, so Terry Fader mimicry isn't a must; but a nice taste of what we're looking for would be nice. Also, we asked that you get as far as possible from your signature style as possible. On top of that, we specifically asked for something that's not a parody. So approaching humor is tricky... when used, it should be used as the artist would have used it. Finally, I really need to like the song, so there's a lot of subjectivity here.

Some of you got it. Some of you didn't stray very far from your familiar paddock. And some of you just made some weird choices. Here are my reactions:


OFFICIAL ENTRIES
(unranked album order)

Brian Gray - Boy and His Kumquat Tree
in the style of Philip Glass
This is the poster boy of weird choices. I fully expected another Gleeble Glorp song, so no dings there. But I really have to ding you on your explanation of this song. The reason I'm doing that is because you gave us this exposition-heavy song bio, but then there's nothing of that, really, in the song. You've got a lot of Philip Glass in there, yup. But I don't hear any of that story, either lyrically or musically. This makes it doubly difficult, because the "lyrics", such as they are, aren't even connected to the music. It could have been anything at all. I think I'd have almost preferred it in the fictional space language I joked about in the Facebook group.
Because you've done so many different styles, I know that asking you to give us something different makes this a difficult challenge. But I think also that you had a lot of places to go that might have made more sense and gotten a more reliable response. As it is, it feels like "out of the box and right off the reservation."
I strongly suspect that this is going to be a "Love It or Hate It" song among the judges. I'd bet a week's pay Edric's gonna love this (maybe a couple of others), but I'm falling the other way, sorry.

Zoe Gray - Old Lovers' Bridge
in the style of Hank Williams
Zoe, from a songwriting perspective, I think you gave us what we asked for. It's not your usual style and it does pretty much use Hank Williams' style. And honestly, Country was a good choice for you. But your choice of artist makes it an uphill climb. Vocally, you're not going to not sound like Zoe Gray, and you're not going to sound like Hank Williams. So you could have done a couple of things: bring in a singer, or choose another Country artist you could more reasonably replicate (and there's no shortage of those!) But we have to rate these on what we have, and for you that's going to be style and lyrics. For everything else (instrumentation, vocals) we have to imagine someone else playing and singing, and frankly, for me that's disappointing, because doing a pastiche doesn't mean abandoning your strengths... and your vocals are one of your strengths. For this challenge, making me imagine someone else doesn't help. Balancing everything out, I think this one's going to land somewhere in the middle of my rankings.

Vom Vorton - Silver Streak
in the style of Fu Manchu
You've almost got Fu Manchu's style down, I think. You thought about the subject matter, so that's good, too. If anything, your track is cleaner than the stuff of theirs I've heard. To nail it, you'd need to fill the verses with frickin' cymbals so you have to plough through them with frantic vocals.

Faster Jackalope - Ghia's Got Room For Two
in the style of the Ronettes
I love this song. That's the good part of the review. Here's the critical part: If you're going to base this on the Ronettes, lead with the female vocal. At first listen, I thought, "another one where I'm going to have to imagine cross-gender vocals". But NO! Bella's right there! Other than that, you pretty much nail the style. That said, this is a fairly ubiquitous style of the period, and you could point to other bands that it sounds more like. But for a kid born when JFK was alive (me) this is a pleasant stroll down Memory Lane.

PigFarmer Jr. - Who Are You?
in the style of Vanilla Ice
Too. Damned. Slow. If you're going to do Vanilla Ice, pump up the energy. Imagine you're going to use this thing in an aerobics class. Other than that, good rap.
Oh, and fair warning... you should have rhymed "Haleen" with "baleen", "careen", or even "caffeine".  You're so gonna get it! ;)

Temnere - The Grifter
in the style of Bad Religion
Honestly, this sounds like Tenmere. If I'd chosen a genre for you to stretch yourself, it would have been acoustic, and I'm pretty sure you'd have killed it.

Good Guy Sôjàbé - Ahab
in the style of Moby
Trying to nail down Moby's style is like trying to nail down Jello. But I think you've mostly got it, if only by virtue of there being so much variety to choose from. If it were to be more typically Moby, I think maybe more background ambience in the way of synth strings would do it. But I wouldn't do it on this song, because I like what you've done here better than I like Moby. 

Mandibles - Right Again
in the style of ABBA
Nice! Personally, to nail ABBA's production I think you should have employed close harmony earlier in the verses and bolstered it with (almost-subliminally-soft-in-the-mix) male backing vocals in the chorus. And fill out that the chorus with instrumentation... it should sound like somebody just told the band, "screw it... we're all playing!" But the song itself...? Pretty damned good.

Third Cat - Hideaway
in the style of Yaz
I'll be honest... I'm not hearing a whole lot of Yaz in this with the exception of "Only You". Partly that's attributable to vocals; but partly, I think, it's down to focusing on the style of "a song" rather than "a band". 

Governing Dynamics - Leave It At That
in the style of Bob Dylan
Very nice! I'm glad you didn't parody Dylan's voice. His musical style is so distinctive you don't have to, so a hint is enough. But for that you have to nail the musical style, and you did a great job. The acoustic is nothing like your usual stuff, though I kind of think had Dylan performed this song there'd be less picking and more strumming. That says quite a lot about not only your skills, but Dylan's.  


SHADOWS
(unranked)

Jocko Homomorphism - We Were So Grand
in the style of Jimmy Buffet
It's a little stiff and sparse for Jimmy Buffett, and his lyrics are pretty much about simple pleasures. But given a few lyrical edits, the right arrangement and a looser (laid back) delivery, this could probably pass.

Menage A Tune - Surfin' The Web
in the style of The Beach Boys
More parody than pastiche. The Beach Boys would be lyrically un-ironic.

Faster Jackalope - They Know
in the style of [I have no idea]
You picked the right song for your official entry.

Matchy Matchy - Eagles
in the style of A Flock of Seagulls
If this were an official entry I'd moan a bit about the pun in the chorus, but instrumentally and stylistically, I think you've got it.